Consumer advocate Clark Howard gives LucyPhone thumbs up

Syndicated radio show host and renowned consumer advocate Clark Howard not only loves to save you money, but evidently he wants to save you time as well (time is money after all) — from those annoying “on hold” situations in the call center.

That’s why he’s giving LucyPhone a thumbs up. For loyal readers of this blog, LucyPhone should sound a little familiar.

Once again, hate-to-be-on-hold enters the mainstream. Contact centers take note.

Latest Asterisk 1.8 is out

Just a few days ago Digium proudly released Asterisk 1.8 — over 200 enhancements, security updates, and new features. This version will even work with Google Voice and calendar integration with Outlook, CalDAV, and iCalendar. And that’s in addition to the fancy PBX-y stuff it already does like caller ID, call waiting, hold, transfer, etc.

More reason for any small/medium business to evaluate Asterisk’s potential usefulness in team communications and collaboration.

Also, AstriCon starts today in the nation’s capitol. Too bad I cannot be there to bask for three days in open source nirvana, but if you’re in attendance and feeling generous, why not give us a glimpse by leaving a comment below?

This conference is somewhat refreshing in the telecom industry because you won’t see the usual suspects there — no Cisco, no Avaya, no Siemens, no Microsoft, no Aspect, no Alcatel-Lucent, … There, I just gave you a few good reasons to attend AstriCon next year!

ShoreTel buys Agito Networks

Who is Agito Networks, you ask? “The leader in enterprise mobility,” the company claims. Today there are probably another dozen companies that also make the same claim and have the products to back them up, too. Maybe Agito was the pioneer in marrying WiFi and cellular mobility to save companies money, but that’s hardly anything to get excited about these days with the increasing adoption of VOIP, SIP trunking, and capable smartphones. Granted, Agito may have been the first to bring such a solution to the Blackberry, the must-have smartphone for workers. In June it finally released an app for the Apple iPhone with many positive app reviews on the App Store.

The price ShoreTel paid for Agito was $11.4 million cash. Or as Dave Michels of Pin Drop Soup puts it, “ShoreTel blows $11.4 million.” Agito Networks pulled in $22 million in funding since 2007, so maybe indeed it was too good of a price to pass up.

Or — purely a guess of my own — Agito backers Battery Ventures and Castile Ventures were looking for an exit now that several telecom, UC, and IP vendors are encroaching into the same space, and with the economic downturn, it was getting way too hard to make a profit. And among all the Agito technology partners, ShoreTel was probably really the only company that would make the buy if proposed. (Among other big partners: Cisco wouldn’t be interested. Blackberry wouldn’t want to get into the business. Avaya has its own plans to tackle this. Motorola’s struggling to survive. HP prefers sexier buyouts like Palm. Nokia/Symbian are barely relevant anymore. And Microsoft must already have plans to do something with Windows Phone 7 and Lync.)

It’ll be interesting to see what ShoreTel comes out with from the Agito acquisition, especially with smartphone apps. After all, both companies have the expertise in developing UC apps for multiple smartphone platforms.

Here’s ShoreTel’s press release:

SUNNYVALE, Calif., October 21, 2010 – ShoreTel® (NASDAQ: SHOR), the leading provider of brilliantly simple IP phone systems with fully integrated unified communications (UC), today announced it has acquired Agito Networks (“Agito”), a leader in platform-agnostic enterprise mobility, for approximately $11.4 million.

The Agito solution expands ShoreTel’s vision of setting the user free to communicate on any device (desk phone, mobile phone, computer), at any location (office, home, remote) by allowing individuals to use any network (cellular or Wi-Fi), simply and cost effectively. With this acquisition, ShoreTel redefines the meaning of the “mobile worker” and changes the rules in giving mobile device users the freedom to work anywhere, even beyond the wireless network. The Agito technology puts the full power of the desk phone in the user’s pocket, arming them with some of the most sophisticated voice and UC features available today, including enterprise call-control capabilities, voice over WLAN with superior voice quality, as well as presence and location. The solution provides productivity gains for the end user and the IT staff with its heterogeneous PBX and UC support for other vendors, including Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft, as well as legacy TDM PBXs.

The transaction further strengthens ShoreTel’s cost-saving proposition by reducing mobile and long distance costs and allowing business to use smartphones as PBX extensions. Enterprises of all sizes are seeing a growing segment of their workforce elect smartphones as their primary communications device of choice. With the Agito solution, ShoreTel will offer native support for leading smartphones and tablets including BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Nokia, and Windows-Mobile smartphones, reducing integration complexities for enterprise IT — a first in the area of enterprise mobility.

“This is a key strategic investment that creates a significant differentiator for ShoreTel in enterprise mobility,” said Don Girskis, interim CEO of ShoreTel.  “Dependence on smartphones continues to skyrocket, but many workers still struggle with poor coverage areas, inferior call quality, expensive international roaming fees and limited feature sets. By integrating the Agito technology with ShoreTel’s brilliantly simple UC system, we free users to use any network (Wi-Fi or cellular), leveraging the power of the desk phone, and taking advantage of industry-leading call quality and call controls from their smartphone. This not only has a positive impact on productivity, but it also positively affects the bottom line with significant savings on mobile and international usage fees.”

BENEFITS OF TRANSACTION

• Freedom of Choice: Workers are on the move and their communications need to keep up with them. Mobile devices and smartphones are quickly becoming the device of choice. Together, ShoreTel and Agito technology give businesses and their employees a powerful solution to boost productivity inside and outside of the office.

• Cost Savings & Productivity Gains: The Agito solution delivers value to businesses of all sizes, including significant cost savings of up to 80 percent on mobile and international usage. Desk phone and UC capabilities, such as presence and location are extended to the smartphone for productivity gains for the mobile worker.

• Heterogeneous PBX Support: The acquisition of Agito expands upon ShoreTel’s 360 Legacy Migration Program to include mobility. By leveraging Agito’s broad smartphone interoperability and demonstrated support of Avaya, Cisco, ShoreTel and other enterprise IP PBX systems, ShoreTel can provide mobility solutions ideally suited to heterogeneous environments.

• Secure and Seamless: Agito Networks’ patent pending solution is designed to securely deliver industry-leading capabilities on any cellular network and Wi-Fi networks—transparently to the user, with seamless handoff between networks during active calls.

• Brilliant Simplicity: The innovative Agito technology complements the award-winning ShoreTel Communicator Mobile dashboard, and meets ShoreTel’s stringent requirements for ease of deployment by IT and ease of use by non-technical business users.

• Transaction Details: ShoreTel has acquired all of Agito’s intellectual property, customer base, distribution network and has hired certain employees in the all-cash deal.

• Expanded Enterprise Customer Base: The Agito technology and distribution channel allows ShoreTel better access to Fortune 1000 customers.

CUSTOMER QUOTES

Hertford Regional College
“Hertford Regional College has more than 900 employees in multiple campus buildings over half a city block. Mobility isn’t an option, for us, it’s essential. Agito gives us the flexibility to select any mobile device and carrier service in one fully integrated PBX and wireless network. The result is a campus-wide mobility solution that is easy to use, offers outstanding sound quality and works at any location, even where cell service is not available.  Employees are reachable on their business phone number all times from their mobile device, while we’ve been able to cut our costly cellular services expenses in half.”
– Daniel Hidlebaugh, Network Services Manager, Hertford Regional College.

Anthony Marano Company
“Here at the Anthony Marano Company, our business is done over the phone with a very mobile workforce.  Agito Networks turns the wide variety of smartphones we use into mobile desk phones.  From our drivers to our sales staff, everyone is reachable and responsive whether in the warehouse, in the office, or on the road.”
– Christopher Nowak, CTO, Anthony Marano Company.
INDUSTRY ANALYST QUOTES

Frost and Sullivan
Agito Networks enterprise mobility applications align nicely with ShoreTel’s mission to offer communications solutions with sophisticated functionality yet that are easy to implement, administer and use, resulting in lower communication costs for customers. Agito’s unique location aware dual mode telephony and mobile UC applications strengthen and bring differentiation to ShoreTel’s mobility portfolio, as well as expand the range of solutions ShoreTel can deliver to third-party and multi-vendor enterprise communications networks. With rapidly increasing demand for advanced enterprise mobility applications, the addition of Agito positions ShoreTel well to capture this emerging opportunity.
– Rob Arnold, Senior Industry Analyst, Unified Communications and Collaboration, Information & Communication Technologies, Frost & Sullivan
RELATED LINKS & CONVERSATION
Follow ShoreTel on Twitter and Facebook.
Subscribe to ShoreTel’s blog.

Legal Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
ShoreTel assumes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements included in this release.  This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the federal securities laws, including, without limitation, benefits of the acquisition and product integration and performance.  The forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. The risks and uncertainties include risks relating to the integration of the products, technology and operations of Agito with those of ShoreTel, the fact that the mobile market is at an early stage of development and may not develop as rapidly as we anticipate; competitive factors; our ability to retain key Agito employees; market acceptance of new products and services; the impact of unforeseen expenses or difficulties in development and marketing the combined products; and general economic conditions worldwide.

Further information on these and other factors that could affect our financial results is included in the section entitled “Risk Factors” in our Annual Report on Form 10-K and in our most recent report on Form 10-Q and in other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time to time.

About ShoreTel, Inc.
ShoreTel, Inc. (NASDAQ: SHOR) is the provider of brilliantly simple Unified Communication (UC) solutions based on its award-winning IP business phone system. We offer organizations of all sizes integrated, voice, video, data, and mobile communications on an open, distributed IP architecture that helps significantly reduce the complexity and costs typically associated with other solutions. The feature-rich ShoreTel UC system offers the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) and the highest customer satisfaction in the industry, in part because it is easy to deploy, manage, scale and use. Increasingly, companies around the world are finding a competitive edge by replacing business-as-usual with new thinking, and choosing ShoreTel to handle their integrated business communication. ShoreTel is based in Sunnyvale, California, and has regional offices in Austin, Texas, United Kingdom, Sydney, Australia and Munich, Germany. For more information, visit www.shoretel.com.

About Agito Networks
Agito Networks is an award-winning technology leader in enterprise mobility. Its product, the RoamAnywhere Mobility Router, is an innovative mobile Unified Communications (UC) product enabling enterprises to extend voice and UC to cell phones. RoamAnywhere is the first and only network appliance that fuses enterprise wireless LANs, carrier cellular networks, IP telephony and location technology to mobilize voice and data applications, while remaining agnostic to customers’ choices of carrier and equipment vendors. Agito enables low-cost in-building voice coverage, reduced cellular costs, improved enterprise visibility and control over cellular usage, and better accessibility and responsiveness for mobile workers. With Corporate Headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., the company is venture backed by Battery Ventures, Castile Ventures and ITX International. Follow Agito Networks on Twitter at http://twitter.com/agitonetworks, and on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/AgitoNetworks.

Following le Alcatel-Lucent Dynamic Enterprise Tour from afar

Now I know why it took me half a day to find somebody from Genesys to give me an update on a customer’s software order — everyone must’ve been in Paris for the Alcatel-Lucent DET!

Kidding aside, I was finally able to catch up on tweets (thanks @tddupree, @blairplez, @mcgeesmith, @brian_riggs, @SteffWatson, and @LoudyOutLoud) and news about this event… Although it appeared to be more of a sales and marketing showcase with executive keynotes and workshops, there were some interesting nuggets of information to give us a glimpse of how ALU will deal with the dynamic enterprise.

My IC Phone – the smart desk phone

Alcatel-Lucent already knows you love the smartphone that’s in your pocket, but what about on your desk? My IC Phone aims to dazzle you with a sleek, black, business-y, multitouchy IP phone — complete with two USB ports and even a mini-USB keyboard port — so you’ll sit at your desk longer just to admire this phone. The demo reminds me of a 7″ Android tablet slapped on with a speaker and handset. The thing is more than a desk phone! It’s really a phone-puter capable of running widgets and surfing the Web. Oh, my desktop PC does that too?

There’s even an open source SDK to develop apps for My IC Phone. Kudos to ALU for its continued commitment to foster an open development ecosystem. Who knows? Maybe some developer will find a way to write an iPad emulator for My IC Phone…

My gripe? The lame product name. Seriously, for an enterprise product? Here’s an idea: dePhone (as in “dynamic enterprise phone” and paying tribute to the French). Rolls off the tongue nicely in an office setting too… “Hi Paul, can I borrow dePhone?” Got a natural ring to it, don’t you think?

(Okay, perhaps there’s a reason I’m not in marketing.)

HP – the smart partner

HP is the platinum sponsor of the Dynamic Enterprise Tour. The global alliance was formed with ALU in June 2009 for a 10-year commitment. Combining HP’s massive services force with ALU’s communications know-how was definitely a good strategy for HP to expand its offerings and for ALU to reach more customers.

HP has always been a company unafraid of reinventing itself. From pocket calculators to PCs to peripherals to Palm Pre 2, the company is willing to take risks and try new things, even if it means holding hands with a French communications company.

Question: Will there be an HP webOS product coming from Alcatel-Lucent? Discuss.

Genesys – the smart acquisition

A few products and executives from Genesys were featured during this event. Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, Paul Segre, and Eric Tamblyn got to share ideas and solutions about customer engagement across various channels. Not only has Genesys maintained its contact center CTI dominance throughout the years, but its latest products also tackle enterprise issues in the back office and in social media. But more interestingly, according to Eric Pe nisson, General Manager Enterprise Applications, Alcatel-Lucent’s next generation architecture will draw from Genesys SIP Server technology.

This is quite amazing if you consider Genesys being a niche contact center technologies company whereas its parent Alcatel-Lucent has always been a major communications firm. Alcatel-Lucent may be relatively small compared to its competitors, but some of its major acquisitions have demonstrated that the communications company is serious about enterprise applications, and enterprise applications is where the action is these days.

This week insideCTI: 10/10/10 – 10/16/10

Did you take a moment to ponder upon 10/10/10? The Answer to Life was revealed that day. Sorry if you’d missed it! (101010 is the binary of 42)

The rest of ITEXPO West StartupCamp coverage — Vokle and GroupMe — can be found this week (here and here). GroupMe was especially fascinating not only because of its simplicity, but also of its TechCrunch back story.

And of course, Microsoft was in the spotlight after unveiling its Windows Phone 7 in NYC after much anticipation from consumers and media alike. Some say Microsoft’s missed the window to become the iPhone killer or even the Android killer. Perhaps a valid point, but WP7 could easily turn into a Blackberry killer especially with Microsoft’s deep enterprise ties. The Smartphone Wars are more intriguing than ever, and will get even better when HP comes out with a new webOS smartphone next year…

Here’s an interesting sales strategy: snom technology is offering a free IP-PBX if you buy the phones. Granted, it’s only a 10-seater, but free is still an unbeatable price point, especially for the small business.

Voxeo steps into the limelight again with more Web telephony development goodness: Phono. Unveiled at the jQuery Conference on Saturday, this simply SDK aims to really transform the browser into a multichannel communications medium. All using the simple magic of jQuery JavaScript.

Stay cool, readers — friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and feed us on RSS.

Step aside, Big G: Roll your own Google Voice and Google Talk inside browser with Phono from Voxeo Labs

If anything, the success of Google proves that anyone with unwavering determination and technical know-how can transform Web services. Who doesn’t want to be like the Big G, eh?

Now’s your chance. Earlier today, at the jQuery Conference in Boston Voxeo Labs made it a little easier for any developer to become a mini Google, especially in the area of Web telephony (ala Google Voice) and communications (ala Google Talk).

Say hello to Phono and the PhonoSDK is live for download:

PhonoSDK is a simple jQuery Javascript plug-in that turns any Web browser into a multi-channel communications platform capable of placing and receiving VoIP telephone calls from the browser as well as handling real-time chat communications and more.

PhonoSDK allows jQuery developers to easily add and style a softphone in any Web browser application and in minutes call any SIP address and receive calls to the SIP address dynamically create onReady.  Many web services already speak SIP such as TropoTeleku, and Voxeo, platforms.  Tropo allows Web developers to build sophisticated telephony applications like banking IVR systems with a simple RESTful Web API that can be controlled by the user’s voice or touch tones from their browser using the PhonoSDK!

This will be disruptive on another level unseen in communications. Just imagine: the ability to easily pair the ubiquitous Web browser with a vast cloud communications infrastructure from Voxeo to enable multichannel communications…for FREE.

If you own a company it’s time to update the website’s “click to call” feature to really mean “click to call” and not “click to get a call back.” Why still go through the telephone or cell phone when the customer can easily speak through the browser?

If you implement contact center projects it’s time to rethink that softphone on the agent’s desktop, especially if the center is already VOIP-enabled and the agents work on Web-based CRM screens. Better yet, you can skin it anyway you want.

If you develop Web apps — well, it’s never been a better time to take your Web app up a notch with multichannel communications features. Voice, IM, SMS, tweets, etc. — don’t be intimidated, try it!

We sure live in exciting, cloudy, mashable times — thanks to a company like Voxeo.

Buy a phone, get a free PBX

Berlin-based snom technology AG has treaded into IP-PBX territory with the offering of snom ONE in three flavors: free (for 10 extensions or less), yellow (20 extensions), and blue (unlimited extensions with multi-tenancy). The IP-PBX technology came from its acquisition of PBXnSIP, according to No Jitter. More interestingly, the company known for its IP phones will give away the 10-extension snom ONE if you buy the phones — a very attractive offer for a small business operation.

Comparable to giving away the car if you buy the tires? Sign me up.

Press release from snom:

Berlin 4th October 2010
snom technology AG, leading German developer and manufacturer of SIP devices, today announced the addition of IP-PBXs to its product range, with the launch of the new IP PBX snom ONE. snom ONE will provide customers with an IP telephony system which supports all the functionalities of snom IP phones.

snom ONE is the result of thorough field tests and optimisation activities, taken out on the market. It is available in 3 versions: snom ONE free (downloadable free of charge for up to 10 extensions) and the two resale systems snom ONE yellow (for up to 20 extensions) and snom ONE blue (unlimited number of extensions and multi tenant up to 5 companies). All versions offer the same features and only differ on the maximum supported quantity of extensions.

“In the past we’ve experienced problems with customers missing out on some of the key features delivered by our phones, due to the installed IP-PBX systems,” explains Jonathan Greenwood, snom ONE Product Manager and Managing Director of snom UK Ltd. “With snom ONE, our customers can continue to install and run our VoIP phones on every SIP based PBX, whilst having additional access to a series of easy to install telephony systems, perfectly tailored to our phones. This is our response to the many compelling requests by resellers and users in recent years.”

The snom ONE is being showcased at the Convergence Summit South 2010 from the 5-6 October at Sandown Park Esher Surrey. The new IP-PBX systems are available immediately.

About snom
snom technology AG develops and manufactures VoIP telephones and related equipment based on the IETF open standard, SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Recognized for its high quality, customisable and cost-effective business solutions, snom is also differentiated by the company’s history in the VoIP industry, and its dedication to high security standards. All of snom’s software exists in the firmware on the phones – making it easier for users to download updates and new features. snom customers benefit from the interoperability and flexibility that the snom telephones offer, including plug and play integration and universal compatibility with any SIP-based telephony platform. Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Berlin, Germany, snom technology AG also has offices in Italy, France and in the US. The company distributes its fourth generation SIP phones through its network of more than 200 authorized reseller partners in 60 countries worldwide. For more information on snom, please visit www.snom.com.

Company contacts:
snom technology AG
Heike Cantzler
Christian Baier
Charlottenstr. 68-71
D-10117 Berlin
Telefon: +49 (0)30-39833-103/106
E-Mail: heike.cantzler@snom.com
E-Mail: christian.baier@snom.com
Internet: www.snom.com

Press agency:
Aspectus PR
Amy Redhead
33 Cavendish Square
London, W1U 6JQ
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7182 4081
E-mail: amy.redhead@aspectuspr.com
URL: www.aspectuspr.co.uk